Measuring the effort involved in women's work around the home.
Easy Does It argues that housework is really too difficult for men; it takes women's singular energy and endurance, aided by labor-saving devices, to get the job done. True to form, this Jam Handy production penetrates machines to show how they work, comparing the energy expended in ironing, say, with a bricklayer's efforts. "Here's to the ladies," the narrator drones, "the fair and the weak. Fair they are, we'll all admit. But who dares call them weak?" The narrator is really saying that housework is too taxing for men: "Women's work is not for sissies," he insists. "Most men would have a hard time of it if they were to change jobs with wife, mother, or girlfriend."
To support its claims, the film enlists the authority of science and engineering: little "ergometers" compute the energy necessary to perform certain motions. But the science is pseudo, invoked with a male smirk. Easy Does It also promotes feminized technologies for women's "special needs." The ultimate expression of this, and the justification for the film, is the vacuum gearshift, a "muscle-saving" device targeted at women. There's also a brief, semiconsensual "cross-dressing" scene, which interestingly enough was recalled twenty years later in American Maker, a spectacular institutional film made by Jam Handy for Chevrolet.
Easy Does It belongs to a long tradition of gender-based humor and, as might be expected, does not contribute anything new to the genre. (See The Best Made Plans for another example.) The film's attempts to debunk myths about woman's weakness and frailty quickly reveal themselves -- through patronizing language and goofy, demeaning imagery -- to be disingenuous and hollow. Although women's work is energy-equal to men's, it is trivial in social terms: compare sewing, cooking, and setting tables (acting within and upon the home) with pile driving, steam shoveling, and bricklaying (acting upon the landscape). The film's interest in energy and force is really a way of expressing concern with power relations between men and women; it quickly acknowledges woman's power while attempting to relocate it where it will have the least effect.
Easy Does It was a late entry in Jam Handy's popular series of "Direct Mass Selling" motion pictures, all produced for sponsor Chevrolet. One hundred and eighteen films were made for theatrical release with the intention of promoting the Chevrolet brand name directly to members of the public. They achieved wide circulation: in the first three years of their release, eighty-nine films were shown in 169,603 showings to 132,278,912 people. The films combined popularizations of science, engineering, and technology with a soft sell for Chevrolet, nowhere mentioning the sponsor's name. Still, every car is a Chevrolet.
Ken Smith sez: Using his usual bag of film tricks, Jam Handy shows that technology (particularly that employed by Chevrolet) is making the lives of the "weaker sex" easier. A jovial, pandering narrator points out the particulars while "ergometers" measure "units of effort" and labor-saving devices make life a breeze for "our American girls." Watch for the automated powder puff at the end. Sexist and fun.
WOMEN HOUSEWORK WORK LABOR SEX ROLES HOMES STRENGTH FANTASY HUMOR SURREALISM Women Housework Workers (women) Gender roles Sexism Sports (women) Dance and dancing (teenagers) Teenagers (dancing) Legs (dancing) Pianos Keyboards Hands (playing piano) Archery Athletes (women) Water skiing Aviators (women) Propellers (twisting) Airplanes (twisting propellers) Ironing Sewing Sewing machines Animation (sewing machines) Bricklaying Trowels Steam shovels Heavy equipment Automobiles (Chevrolet) Driving Convertibles (Chevrolet) Convertible tops (raising) Gizmos Inventions Powder puffs (automatic) Powder machine Cosmetics Absurdity Gearshifts Transmissions (automobile) Automobiles (transmissions) Levers Fingers Cooking Kitchens Food preparation Stop-motion photography Pixillation Legs (women's) Table setting Meals (preparation) House cleaning Cleaning
Danger Lurks Safety
Transcript of narration:
Here's to the ladies, the fair and the weak. Fair they are we'll all admit. But who dares call them weak? Our modern girls play as hard and with as much vitality and stamina as any man. How do they do it? Where do they find all that energy Ñ that seemingly inexhaustible store of pep and ginger? What is that ripcord resilience that lets the weaker sex play have the night then bob up, clear-eyed, ready for the next morning's work. This frail creature strikes her typewriter keys about forty thousand times a day. Spaces: seven thousand times. Shifts to capitals and returns the carriage more than a thousand times each. All together, a few ounces at a time, she exerts more than five tons of pressure on her dainty fingertips in one day's work. And, any way you look at it, women's work is not for sissies. Most men would have a hard time of it if they were to change jobs with wife, mother or girlfriend. The homemaker walks miles every day. From sink to icebox, from cupboard to stove, and from kitchen to dining table. Let's use some very special photography to compress the whole job of preparing a meal into a few seconds of time to see how many steps it really takes to get dinner on the table. Remember this is a hurry-up picture of just one meal of more than a thousand. Is that what you'd call a blitz meal? Even an efficiency expert would be staggered by the amount of chasing around and indoor road work that the little woman takes as a matter of course. There's the stair-climbing event, for example. Usually accomplished full-tilt and with an armload of brooms, mops, blankets, and sundry household paraphernalia. Here's another hurry-up picture of the clinging vine whizzing through a day's program that would leave the average mountaineer gasping for breath. Each trip up stairs is the equivalent of lifting her own weight twelve feet and at the rate of twenty trips a day, that's lifting about twelve tons of weight. Who said weaker sex? Ironing is another kind of work that's a lot of little jobs all rolled into one. Just iron one of hubby's shirts, for instance. The iron may have to be lifted twenty or thirty times. And since a flat iron weighs about as much as a brick, a day's ironing actually uses just about as much muscle as bricklaying. Flattening a towel or wielding a trowel Ñ even Steven. Had your iron today, Lady? Because men are being to realize how much lifting and pushing the little woman has to do around the house, more and more muscle-savers are being designed to make the little jobs easier. It's one thing to make six thousand separate scrubbing motions over a tub of clothes and quite another to push a button that does all the work. Here's another example of sheer brute force. Now let's make a super scientific test. You'll notice that this girl is wearing a very special thimble. In fact, it isn't a thimble at all but a gadget of springs and levers to measure the amount of force needed to sew on a button. And it's called an ergometer. According to the ergometer dial, it takes eighteen units of force to push the needle through the cloth just once. In sewing, stitch by stitch, that work adds up. Any man will admit that's a lot of work when it's called to his attention in the right way. And this is one way of calling it to his attention. This hurry-up picture shows that a stitch in time doesn't always save nine. And, anyway, who wants to save nine stitches when a machine can do all the work. A sewing machine is really an amazing invention. Especially when you stop to think that a man invented it. Yet it's simple when you know how it works. We'll slow this one down so that for the first time on a theater screen we can all see exactly what goes on inside a sewing machine. Well, there's the needle with a little loop of thread running through the eye. That's the eye right there, close to the point. The needle carries the thread down through the cloth. At the same time, underneath the cloth, another little loop of thread is being carried in a moving carriage called a shuttle. The shuttle moves past the needle. The loops of thread cross each other and form a smooth stitch. And so that's the way a sewing machine takes the place of a lot of needless needle-nudging and keeps everyone in stitches. Amazing. In the early days of motoring, no woman in her right mind would tackle the job of starting the engine because the job had to be done the hard way. 'Let George do it' was the slogan. And ever since, men have bragged about being the better drivers. Then the muscle-savers got to work and the self-starter put the woman driver behind the wheel instead of in the back seat. But even recently a motorcar demanded a certain amount of athletic prowess on the part of the driver. For example, in shifting gears. Let's hook up one of these work-measuring machines Ñ or ergometers Ñ to this old-fashioned gear shift lever to see how much muscle it needed to run through the gears. 90 units. Starting and stopping, parking and backing up on a full days' driving amounted to more than a ton of pushing plus about a city block of reaching. Putting the shift lever up by the steering wheel would cut down on the amount of reaching. But with such a short lever, it would be even more work to shift the gears. In fact, more than 100 units. To make this job easier, some sort of machine was needed to take over the muscle work of moving the gears in and out of mesh. Yet, because the speed of the car and the conditions of load are never twice quite the same, a certain amount of human judgement would help to shift gears quietly and smoothly. A muscle-saving engineer who went to work on this two-sided problem found that the vacuum produced inside the motorcar engine could develop plenty of power to do the actual work. And by means of a super-sensitive control, the driver could still be the real gear-shifting boss. The sensitive control can regulate the pressure in a powerful vacuum chamber so that the slightest movement of the lever will bring about a strong push in the desired direction, a push that can be controlled to follow the movement of the lever with infinite exactness. This device, connected to the gears of a motorcar, can do eighty percent of this work of shifting yet leave enough for the driver to sense response of the gears as they move smoothly into place. Now let's use that ergometer gagdet again to see how much undesireable exercise we've saved this member of the fair and so-called weaker sex. Now the dial shows about 30 units. Only a few ounces of push with the vacuum gearshift. And if you stop to think about it, that's a vast improvement when it's multiplied by the amount of extra driving that our American girls do nowadays. Now that the muscle-savers are busy, cutting down the amount of unneccessary work for woman and for men, we'll all have more energy left for play time. But there are still plenty of jobs left for the ergometer and the work-saving scientists to tackle. Think of all the energy that our charming millions spend in keeping beautiful. And if science is so darn wonderful, why doesn't some genius build a contraption like this. [The End. A Jam Handy Picture.]
opening sequence; woman riding horse TitleÊCards
woman starting helicopter; people ice skating, VS woman spinning on skates; people riding horses, jumping a fence; woman swimming; 3 women riding bikes, woman playing tennis; woman diving; woman playing golf; women playing soft ball; women water skiing; CU legs dancing(woman playing piano in BG).
CU woman's hands playing the piano, MS teenage boys and girls dancing; CU men's and women's legs dancing; CU woman's hands playing the piano.
CU woman's hands typing; VS woman typing
piledriver pounding metal object
VS woman in kitchen; woman setting table; CU complete dinner setting.
VS woman walking up and down stairs
MCU crane lifting dirt into back of dump truck.
woman ironing, CU man building brick wall; woman pressing towel; woman scrubing clothes with wash board in bucket; woman using washing machine.
VS woman sitting in chair, sewing; CU woman's hands sewing, using thimble with meter attached to it; MCU woman hemming dress; man is wearing dress for her, he does not look very happy about it; CU woman sewing dress; VS woman using sewing machine; VS of sewing machine parts working.
woman approaches old car; VS of man attempting to start old car, woman watching him.
MCU woman driving car; CU of steering wheel and woman's hand shifting gears, VS of woman shifting gears; CU of meter; split screen, top half contains woman shifting gears, bottom contains machine parts operating.
two men testing car parts; CU car part; split screen, woman shifting car in top half, machine part working in bottom half; VS of woman shifting car
VS woman driving convertible, CU woman shifting, CU meter, VS of woman shifting; woman driving car; woman sitting in parked car; CU woman's hand pressing button; VS of woman raising car roof; over shoulder shot of woman looking in rear view mirror placing powder on face.
over shoulder shot of woman looking in mirror (can also see reflection of bed room furniture in mirror) applying lip stick; CU of lid flipping open, two powder applying pads on rods come out approaching woman's face; they tap her on the cheeks, another one comes out tapping her on the chin.
January 8, 2012 Subject:
Put It In Perspective
It takes 14.5 ergs to lift a potato chip out of a bag chew it and swallow it. It takes 18,750 ergs to convert the carbohydrates and fats in that one chip to lactate and CO2. That's a lot of ironing.
March 17, 2008 Subject:
I Love Jam Handy!
Out of all ther films in the Prelinger archive, It's the Jam Handy films I enjoy the most.
Anyway, This film features some good footage of 1940 America, and it contains plenty of good footage of lifestyles and stuff.
Jam Handy didn't create art, But their films are almost always entertaining.
Light, Bouncy and Breezy; Just how I like my car commercials.
March 17, 2008 Subject:
Yes, WW2 when the USA was respected...
Yeah, we dumb USA Americans [not to be confused with our Canadian, Mexican or South American neighbors] had the so-called "good life" during the 1930s, when the depression all but sucked the life out of everyone's moral.
I take it the previous reviewer is British, and I have ALOT of British friends, as well as a high regard for Britain.
But this film is ABOUT effeciency. It's NOT about [USA] people living in "the land of milk & honey" while at the same time our neighbors in Europe [not just Britain] suffer.
The FILM itself? A great time peice.
SOUR GRAPES & sarcasm from ONE English reviewer ALL these years later? Unnecessary.
May 29, 2006 Subject:
Not So Easy After All
This optimistic film, made in 1940 as Hitler marched across Europe, extols the virtues of muscle-saving household devices for the little woman. All the more time to listen to the news of the Battle of Britain on the radio! This All-American fixation on efficiency would come in handy because in 1941, the Japanese would bomb Pearl Harbor. The men would go into battle in Europe and the Pacific and the women would do war work instead of sitting at home sewing with an ergonometer strapped to their wrists. The film innocently claims that because of all the new muscle-saving gadgets well all have more energy left for playtime! Little did ordinary Americans know that World War II was around the corner.
March 11, 2006 Subject:
You've Got to Hand It to the Fair Sex; They're Anything but Slow...
Silly Jam Handy film that spends most of its time arguing that the members of the Âweaker sexÂ do just as much hard work as men do, so therefore lots of time and energy has to be put into developing an easier gearshif for them. Yeah, I know, it doesnÂt make much sense to me, either, but since itÂs a Jam Handy film, itÂs bright and breezy and fun. I like the proposed automatic makeup machine portrayed at the end of the filmÂÂI want one for the Film Ephemeral Museum of Quirky Devices. Lots of great gender role stuff to mine here.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
April 28, 2003 Subject:
The ladies are weak!
In this so called salute to the american woman, which is really about easier gear shifters, we start out in a 'typical' household, watching a woman sweat herself silly over house chores. Methinks she's sweating because she's wearing awfully high heels for the chores. We then go fast forward and marvel at how much work she does (this scene is remniscent of 'Requiem For A Dream') we then (of course) switch over to car manufacturing. Realizing that women exert too much pressure on themselves shifting gears, scientists have created a much easier gear shifter, thereby easing the load. What makes this conclusion weird is that the narrator poo-poo's the idea of the woman being 'The weaker sex' now. If that's the case, then why make the gears easier?